In this guest post fantasy author Karen Azinger tells about creating the fantasy world of Erdhe forThe Silk & Steel Saga.

Karen Azinger is the author of The Silk & Steel Saga and The Assasin's Tear (a short story collection).

Click here to visit Karen Azinger's official website.


In terms of writing fantasy, I’ve always believed that world building is just as important as character building. From the very first page of The Silk & Steel Saga, I strove to create a land steeped in mystery and brimming with wonder. I longed to create kingdoms where my readers can’t wait to peer around the next corner, to discover sun-drenched castles shimmering in deep green moats. To explore sanctuaries of knowledge, where all the walls are jewel-bright with calligraphy, every hall echoing with prophecy, every phrase ringing with destiny.

But it takes more than just a vivid imagination to create a successful world. Everything needs to be layered with history and meaning. As a writer, I strive to breathe life into my settings so that they interact with the characters and the plots, almost becoming characters themselves.

To bring my settings to life, I draw on my travels around the world. We once visited Chartres Cathedral in France where an Oxford professor gave free lectures interpreting the peerless stonework and stained glass windows. The artwork of the great cathedrals was in many ways the “newspaper” of its era. The professor “read” the windows and the elaborate stone carvings, explaining the biblical meanings as well as the more subtle comments on the rulers and politics of the times. I was so taken with these lectures that I was determined to give the same meaning to the architecture of Erdhe. One of the best examples of this is in chapter 27 of The Steel Queen. When Steffan arrives in Coronth, he first visits the great temple and “reads” the architecture to gain a better understanding of the Pontifax and the Flame God. “Crossing the threshold, Steffan felt the chill of stone-cloistered shadows. The ceiling soared overhead, but instead of being light and airy, it captured smoke and darkness. A vault of gloom pressed down as if trying to drive him to his knees.” I want my readers to walk into the temple with Steffan, to feel the stone-hewed malevolence of the Flame God.

But world building is much more than just architecture, it is also about commerce and culture, religion and history. The kingdoms of Erdhe are steeped in history. In the deep forest, Kath and her companions stumble across ancient ruins overgrown with ivy. Some ruins are benign, nothing more than tumbled stones, while others hide potent secrets. Kath soon learns that the past has a way of influencing the present, that we forget the past at our peril.

Another important dimension of Erdhe are its pockets of forgotten peoples. Overlooked and often persecuted, these forgotten people develop unique counter cultures that seem strange and mysterious at first contact. An example of this can be found on the Isle of Souls, where the council of mystics uses a shocking test to confirm their fortunetellers. Those who succeed gain ‘spirit hands’ for the lintels of their shops... while those who fail pay in flesh and blood. Borrowed from the mystics of India, this trial is the type of cultural detail that gives the Isle of Souls a sense of depth and realism.

In this short post, I can only give you the smallest taste of Erdhe. Building a medieval fantasy world is like weaving a complex tapestry, but instead of using crimson and gold, the colors are architecture, religion, commerce and culture. I hope you will visit the kingdoms of Erdhe and the books of The Silk & Steel Saga.

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